Growing up in a musical household, one of Rob Rigoni’s earliest memories was of his father shipping back guitars and mandolins from Italy, where he was stationed with the military.
“It was magical the way they sounded, but I couldn’t even hold them yet,” said Rigoni, who was 4 at the time. “I would just smell them.”
Staying active in music ever since — including writing and performing music since age 11 — Rigoni founded Budapest West, an “electro-world-groove” band in 2000, combining his musical background with the traditional folk music of his Hungarian grandparents.
The band’s name came from Rigoni’s acknowledgment of his family’s ancestry in Budapest and his desire to combine that history with his life in Gig Harbor, on the West Coast of the United States.
“I was a heavy metal, rock ’n’ roll guy as a teen,” Rigoni said. “But I always remembered that gypsy music.”
I was a heavy metal, rock ’n’ roll guy as a teen. But I always remembered that gypsy music.
Cynthia Shaffer joined Rigoni in 2009, adding in her musical influences to the band’s music and original songs.
“We play off each other,” Shaffer said. “He works in segments and I tend to look at things more holistically. When we blend it together, it works.”
Shaffer and Rigoni form the “core” of the group, with Steve Brennan adding in drums and Thomas Bertrand playing rhythm guitar and bass.
“Before we even started playing together we learned we spoke the same music language,” Rigoni said.
The unique music from the band is emphasized by some of the unusual instruments played by Shaffer and Rigoni, who plays the mandolin in addition to the guitar.
We like to see people enjoy music in a different way. What we tell people with our music is we’re going to take them on a journey of the imagination.
Shaffer plays the keyboard and the hurdy-gurdy, a complicated instrument that dates back to the 12th century and produces music similar to a bagpipe.
“It’s a very cranky instrument,” Shaffer said. “But to me it feels just like an extension now.”
Performing original songs — with a few covers thrown into the mix — Budapest West is a frequent feature at Gig Harbor musical venues and other events throughout Washington state. Along with introducing their audience to their unique musical sound, Shaffer and Rigoni work to create music and an experience that draws in their listeners and provides a relatable experience.
“We like to see people enjoy music in a different way,” Shaffer said. “What we tell people with our music is we’re going to take them on a journey of the imagination.”
It’s so rewarding when you play a piece of music that you’re the composer to see people responding positively. We love using unique instruments but creating something people can relate to, dance to and create a unique sound experience.
And the response from their audiences has been enthusiastic.
“It’s so rewarding when you play a piece of music that you’re the composer to see people responding positively,” Rigoni said. “We love using unique instruments but creating something people can relate to, dance to and create a unique sound experience.”
Budapest West will next be performing from 7 to 10 p.m. June 10 at the Gig Harbor MarKee Coffee Shop, and the band is looking forward to inviting its bellydancer friends to their July 29 performance at Zogs on Fox Island.
More information and the band’s ongoing schedule can be found online at budapestwest.com.
Upcoming performances are:
▪ 7 to 10 p.m. June 10 at Gig Harbor MarKee, 5275 Olympic Dr. NW, Suite 101
▪ 6 to 8 p.m. June 17 Gig Harbor Audio, 3019 Judson St., Suite D
▪ Noon to 1:30 p.m. June 18 at the Food Truck Feast at Sehmel Homestead Park, 10123 78th Ave NW